The Best Of Diving In Southeast Asia: Explore The Amazon Of The Seas
Asian Diver|Issue 04 - 2020
Southeast Asia encompasses the world’s most biodiverse reefs and some of the best diving anywhere on the planet. From the tiniest and rarest critters to huge fish schools and the biggest pelagics, the region has it all, and there’s something to suit divers of any level.
Shreya Acharya
PHILIPPINES

The Philippines is home to thousands of dive sites across its 7,641 islands. It is accessible year-round and offers spectacular reefs, whale sharks, mantas and underwater UNESCO World Heritage sites to entice divers into the crystal-clear waters of the Pacific

ANILAO

Known for: Muck diving, macro diving

Anilao is a unique dive destination located in the Batangas Province on the main island of Luzon, just two and a half hours southwest of Manila. Anilao’s calm waters have been a favourite amongst the local dive community for more than 50 years and claims to be the birthplace of diving in all of the Philippines.

While remaining a local favourite, Anilao has also gained an international reputation as being a prime destination for underwater macro photography.

The area is regarded as a muck diving paradise, with critter-rich dive sites like Secret Bay, the Mabini Pier and Arthur’s Rock boasting numerous sought-after and highly photogenic critters.

Hairy frogfish, stargazers, rare nudibranchs, even Rhinopias can all be seen with regularity in Anilao. If muck isn’t your thing, the coral gardens of Sombrero Island, a local wreck dive, or the shallow pinnacles of Apohls Point can be great alternatives. Anilao is never short on dive sites and has something to offer divers of all experience levels.

DIVE EXPERIENCE LEVEL Beginner to advanced

BEST TIME TO DIVE November to May

VISIBILITY 15–20 metres

WATER TEMPERATURES Generally 27.5°C, but can drop to 25°C in January–February

GETTING THERE Anilao is accessible by land or sea, and is best reached from Manila. A bus headed for Batangas City will get you to the Mabini/Bauan jeepney terminal, where you’ll be able to catch a jeepney to the Mabini dock area. From the docks at Mabini, catch a taxi or hire a driver to take you to your resort in Anilao

CORON

Known for: Wreck diving

Coron’s wrecks and wartime history provide an undeniable draw to the region, earning Coron a following as a “wreck diving mecca”. The channels between Busuanga and Culion are home to a number of impressive wrecks from a Japanese supply fleet bombed in September 1944.

Coron is the third-largest island in the Calamian Islands, which consists of over 80 islands and islets in the northern Palawan. Coron Bay is not only home to several well-preserved WWII shipwrecks, but also a rich underwater ecosystem blessed with walls and corals teeming with marine life.

DIVE EXPERIENCE LEVEL Intermediate to advanced

BEST TIME TO DIVE October to June

VISIBILITY 7–20 metres

WATER TEMPERATURES Between 27°C and 30°C

GETTING THERE Get an internal flight from Manila (MNL) or Mactan-Cebu (CEB) to Busuanga Airport (USU), where Coron is a 30-minute car ride away

DAUIN, DUMAGUETE

Known for: Hard coral walls, muck diving

Dumaguete is located on the island of Negros, a one-hour flight from Manila. All dive sites in Dauin are protected marine sanctuaries and can be explored via shore entry.

The dives sites of Dauin have a number of great macro subjects, including pipefish, mandarin fish, juvenile batfish, seahorses, mantis shrimp, ribbon eels, dragonets, hairy squat lobster, snake eels, wonderpus octopuses, bobtail squid, a large number of nudibranchs, blue-ring octopuses, harlequin shrimp, and flamboyant cuttlefish.

As a bonus, most dive resorts along the Dauin coastline offer a day trip to Oslob, where you can swim and snorkel up-close with the ocean’s biggest fish, whale sharks. It is located about a 2.5-hour drive away from Dauin, and sightings of these gentle creatures are practically guaranteed.

DIVE EXPERIENCE LEVEL Beginner to advanced

BEST TIME TO DIVE October to early June

VISIBILITY 10–15 metres

WATER TEMPERATURES Can be up to 31°C, with cooler temperatures towards the end of the year, ranging from 26–28°C

GETTING THERE Take an internal connecting flight from Manila Airport (MNL) into Dumaguete-Siulan Airport (DGT), where airport transfers are available to your preferred resort

MALAPASCUA

Known for: Macro diving, manta rays, thresher sharks

Malapascua is well known for its frequent sightings of thresher sharks. Given the island’s location within the Coral Triangle, diving here consists of flailing along beautiful reefs and varied marine life ranging from the sharks to banded sea snakes, mandarinfish to pygmy seahorses, among many others.

Its most famous dive site, Monad Shoal, is an underwater island on the edge of a 200-metre drop-off. The ideal depth for an encounter with the threshers is between 22–27 metres, which makes getting nitrox certified an advantage. Here, mantas and devil rays are also seen gliding past, and sometimes hammerheads can be seen between January to April. Take note that diving to Monad Shoal to see the thresher sharks is open only to divers with at least an Advanced Open Water Diver license.

Lighthouse, usually reserved for sunset or dusk dives, is where you will almost certainly see the mating mandarinfish in all their glory. As the night approaches during your dive, the creatures of the night start appearing, so be sure to look out for the bobtail squid, starry night octopus, cuttlefish, juvenile sweetlips, banded pipefish, crabs, and various seahorse species.

With its friendly locals and mesmerising sunsets, Malapascua Island is an oasis, teeming with abundant underwater life.

DIVE EXPERIENCE LEVEL Beginner to advanced

BEST TIME TO DIVE February to September

VISIBILITY 5–30 metres

WATER TEMPERATURES 25°C in January, rising to 29°C in May

GETTING THERE Flying into Mactan-Cebu Airport (CEB) is your gateway to Malapascua with airport transfers to the dive resorts that take around four hours by car and 30 minutes by boat

MOALBOAL

Known for: Sardine run, critters, Pescador Island

Moalboal is at the heart of marine biodiversity in the Philippines and its healthy reefs and steep walls support schools of snappers, jacks, barracudas, sardines, reef sharks, tuna, turtles, passing thresher sharks and even occasional whale sharks. Macro life is abundant here and highlights include pygmy seahorses, nudibranchs, electric clams, cuttlefish, ghost pipefish, frogfish and a host of crustaceans.

Pescador Island is a protected marine park, and is one of the most famous dive spots in the area. This diminutive island is a diver’s playground with tunnels, caverns and swim-throughs. Fishes are abundant here and you can also find whitetip reef sharks, schooling barracudas, sardines, jacks and occasional thresher sharks.

The sardine run can be witnessed at Panagsama Reef, down a steep slope to 40 metres, where thousands upon thousands of sardines information can be seen being hunted by tunas and jacks. Be greeted by a host of marine life such as sergeant majors, moorish idols, parrotfish, pufferfish, and the occasional turtle when you make your way back to the shallow area for your safety stop.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM ASIAN DIVERView All

Dive the Golden Land

The Best of Diving In Southeast Asia

4 mins read
Asian Diver
Issue 04 - 2020

OFFICIAL LAUNCH OF BLUE HOPE

Top Session of the Week (14,319 (Views) / 42,831 (Reach)

1 min read
Asian Diver
Issue 04 - 2020

MEET THE (MARINE) MAMMALS

MEET THE (MARINE) MAMMALS

5 mins read
Asian Diver
Issue 04 - 2020

Below With David Doubilet & Jennifer Hayes

Best known for their work with National Geographic, David Doubilet and Jennifer Hayes came together to discuss their work with the youth, and, as Jennifer put it, “submerging with the emerging talent”.

1 min read
Asian Diver
Issue 04 - 2020

Underwater Images For The Giant Screen

Howard and Michele Hall are best known for their success in underwater IMAX filmmaking.

1 min read
Asian Diver
Issue 04 - 2020

The Sea Specialist: An Interview With Bret Gilliam

Most people learn to crawl before they walk, but there is a man who learned to swim before taking his first steps. Diver, entrepreneur, writer, athlete, maritime specialist – Bret Gilliam is the complete package. Just add water.

10+ mins read
Asian Diver
Issue 04 - 2020

The Best Of Diving In Southeast Asia: Explore The Amazon Of The Seas

Southeast Asia encompasses the world’s most biodiverse reefs and some of the best diving anywhere on the planet. From the tiniest and rarest critters to huge fish schools and the biggest pelagics, the region has it all, and there’s something to suit divers of any level.

10+ mins read
Asian Diver
Issue 04 - 2020

Journey To Filming For National Geographic Wild Brazil

Cristian is an acclaimed and highly versatile Brazilian wildlife filmmaker who works both underwater and topside.

1 min read
Asian Diver
Issue 04 - 2020

Breaking The Barrier: The World's Deepest Dive

David Strike shared a brilliant presentation about the history of deep diving and how Lt. George Wookey achieved the world’s deepest dive in 1956 using a surface-supplied rebreather.

1 min read
Asian Diver
Issue 04 - 2020

Purge Of The Plastic Pandemonium

Purge Of The Plastic Pandemonium

10+ mins read
Asian Diver
Issue 02 - 2020